Algae feedstocks gain attention

By Jerry W. Kram | February 11, 2008
From California to Spain, algae's potential as a feedstock is slowly growing as biodiesel producers search for a low-cost alternative to virgin vegetable oils. Two companies made major announcements recently, which will affect the eventual commercialization of algae technology, while leaders in algae technology gathered in Madrid in January to discuss the state of the industry.

PetroSun Inc. announced that its renewable fuel subsidiary PetroSun BioFuels Refining has entered a joint venture to build and operate a 30 MMgy biodiesel plant near Coolidge, Ariz. The plant would use algae-based oil produced at PetroSun's proposed algae farms in Arizona as a feedstock. Construction of the biodiesel plant is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2008. PetroSun previously announced that it will start building algae farms in several U.S. states, Mexico, Brazil and Australia in 2008. The company has also entered a feedstock supply agreement with Bio-Alternatives Inc. for up to 150 million gallons of algae oil per year.

Meanwhile, California-based Solazyme Inc. entered into a biodiesel feedstock development and testing agreement with major oil company Chevron USA Inc. Solazyme said it is currently producing thousands of gallons of algae oil. It is partnering with Chevron to accelerate the commercialization of its proprietary technology.

More than 160 people from Europe, North America and South America attended the International Monographic Conference in Madrid, Spain, according to Ana Pérez with event coordinator Global Energy. Presenters included Doug Frater, president of Global Green Solutions Inc., who spoke about algae as a sustainable biodiesel feedstock. His company is teaming with Valcent Inc. to develop an algae propagation system in El Paso, Texas. Another speaker Jorge Kaloustian, president of Oil Fox Co., highlighted his company's business experience in producing biodiesel from algae oil. Oil Fox is harvesting algae in the Patagonia region of Argentina in conjunction with the government of the Chubat Province. Claudia Teixeira, a researcher with Brazil's ministry of science and technology, gave a technical and economic analysis of algae as a feedstock for biodiesel. Miguel Garcia Guerrero, a researcher with Sevilla University in Spain, discussed biofuel production from microalgae.
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